April 29, 2016
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is calling for urgent action by the Sierra Leone government to protect the country’s fisheries resources after the EU warned the country on its failure to combat illegal or “pirate” fishing.
The EU Commission just warned Sierra Leone with a “yellow card” after it concluded that the country’s level of development and engagement against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) was inadequate.
According to the EU Commission, “in Sierra Leone legal texts governing fisheries are outdated and sanctions fail to deter illegal operators operating internationally under the flag of Sierra Leone, without the fisheries authorities’ knowledge. In addition, the number of licensed vessels exceeds the available resources and authorities fail to monitor or control their waters.”
EJF has been documenting illegal “pirate” fishing in Sierra Leone’s waters for seven years. Between January 1, 2010 and July 31, 2012, EJF’s community surveillance project in southern Sierra Leone received 252 reports of pirate fishing by industrial vessels in inshore areas.
Nine out of 10 of the vessels were accredited to export their catches to Europe, the world’s most valuable import market for fish.
Sierra Leone’s own fisheries ministry (MFMR) estimates that the country loses approximately $29 million (€25.8 million) per year due to IUU fishing activities.
A significant proportion of these losses stem from the activities of foreign trawlers operating illegally in Sierra Leone’s Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ), an area strictly reserved for artisanal fishermen and as a breeding and nursery ground for fish.